Analysing factors influencing length of stay and spending behaviour of air tourists to South Africa
Vaal University of Technology
Tourism is regarded as a global phenomenon in the 21st Century and is the world’s largest and fastest growing industry. Many countries globally look at tourism as a key driver for economic growth and rescue to their economic slumber (Brida, Lanzilotta, Moreno & Santiñaque 2018:62). In South Africa, tourism contributed immensely to total employment and economic activity in the country and the government sees this industry as a great resource, the country’s strategy for expansion and a possible vehicle to take South Africa into a new economic trajectory. The National Department of Tourism developed the National Tourism Sector Strategy (NTSS 2016-2026) to facilitate the growth of this industry. As a result, direct tourism performance is measured on an ongoing basis against the goals set for South Africa of which two of the performance measures are length of stay and direct spend (NTSS 2019). These two are important because if visitors stay for longer periods at a destination, their spending increases as they partake in more tourism activities and pay for accommodation. This in turn increases the value attached to tourism as an engine for economic growth (SA Tourism 2007:59). Tourists’ spending and length of stay are therefore very important variables in the tourism industry as they contribute immensely to the economic value of tourism to specific destinations (Wong, Fong, & Law, 2016:958; Wang, Fong, Law & Fang 2018:472; Montañoa, Rossellób & Sansób 2019:112). Length of stay and average spend per day by tourists are fluctuating for South Africa as a tourism destination (SAT 2009-2018). The growth of both these variables has also been small over a period of ten years. These fluctuations and slow growth exert pressure on the tourism industry (SAT 2005-2018) and therefore annually form part of the strategic objectives of the National Department of Tourism (NTSS 2019). An in-depth analysis of these two variables is lacking and understanding the factors influencing these two variables within a South African context is of paramount importance to improving the economic value of tourism to the country. Although the factors influencing the two variables have been widely researched, these cannot be stereotyped to all destinations as they are destination specific (Barros & Machado 2010:693; Gemara & Correiab 2018:56) and these have not been analysed in the context of South Africa as a tourism destination. Though fluctuating patterns and slow growth on tourists’ length of stay and spending in South Africa is evident and is a cause of concern, the real problem here is lack of in-depth information on factors which influence these two key variables from a South African perspective. Even though South African Tourism have placed length of stay and spending of tourists as key strategic variables that need to be closely monitored and improved it needs action from the South African context. Once these factors are known, only then can South African Tourism be able to condition them positively for the benefit of the country’s economy. This research therefore sought to explore the factors influencing the stay duration and spending behaviour of international air tourists to South Africa and how these factors can be developed to increase tourists’ length of stay and spending in South Africa. Hence the aim of this research was to identify and analyse factors that influence length of stay and spending behaviour of international tourists reaching South Africa by air and in both cases, attention was given to the intrinsic and extrinsic contributing factors. Literature was reviewed on tourists’ travel behaviour by means of an in-depth discussion of travel motivations in general and travel motivations to South Africa specifically, tourists’ decision-making process, type of holiday decisions tourists makes, and the factors that influence these tourists’ decisions. The composition of the total tourism product was also analysed as this has an influence on tourists’ travel behaviour. This was followed by a comprehensive analysis of literature concerning tourists’ spending behaviour and visitors’ length of stay, which form the pith of this study. The analysis focused on the definition of concepts such as tourists’ length of stay and spending behaviour, the importance of length of stay and spending behaviour of tourists in tourism, how tourism spending is measured, how tourism expenditure data is gathered, what constitutes tourism spending/expenditure and lastly the factors which influence tourists’ length of stay and spending behaviour. A quantitative paradigm in the form of a sample survey was used in conducting this research. This research follows a cross-sectional design (exploratory and descriptive in nature at the same time) which involves the collection of data on more than one case and at a single point in time. The target population of this study comprised international tourists who visited South Africa by air. These visitors were accessed at one of the top tourist attractions in Cape Town (one of the most popular cities for international tourists) namely Table Mountain Cable Way. Table Mountain was selected as a data collection hub as it enjoys the lion’s share of South Africa’s international tourist arrivals. According to the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company (TMACC2014:11), Table Mountain was named Africa’s leading tourist attraction in the World Travel Awards 2014 which makes it possible to pull many international tourists to the country of South Africa. Guided by previous similar studies, the sample size for this study was predetermined at 800 respondents of which 720 were completed without error signifying a response rate of 90%. A non-probability sampling technique namely convenience sampling was chosen for this survey as no list was available on who would be visiting the Table Mountain Arial Cable Way. The 800 international tourists were therefore purposively (only international visitors) and conveniently recruited depending on their willingness to participate in the research project; thus, a non-probability sampling technique was followed. Through the researcher distributing the questionnaire in person and using own judgement, a diverse range of nationalities, age groups and gender was included in the sample for it to be a close representation of all the visitors to South Africa as well as of the phenomenon under investigation. The questionnaire was designed and used to obtain detailed data on travel motivations, spending patterns and length of stay of the international air tourist market to South Africa. The questionnaire was designed from previous studies related to the above key variables and this added to the content validity of the questionnaire. A pre-test study was conducted by means of 10 survey questionnaires administered to academic experts at a University who had travelled abroad, and this added to the face validity of the questionnaire. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 23.0 for Windows was used to analyse the data and data gathered was presented by means of frequency tables and analytically described, subjected to exploratory factor analysis, one-way analysis of variances (ANOVA), t-tests, and Spearman’s rank order correlation analysis to establish the relationships between variables. Based on the empirical findings of this research project it is concluded that more males than females participated in this research and on average the age of the participants is 41 years, mostly married people and mainly staying in hotels and lodges. A variety of nationalities participated in this research but most of the respondents were from USA, UK followed by a huge margin from Germany, Netherlands and Australia, a profile which matches that of typical visitors to South Africa and were holders of a degree or diploma, followed by those with a postgraduate qualification with the majority being professionals followed by those in managerial positions. Most of the respondents to the study were first-time visitors to South Africa, travelling in a group of 3 or less people, and the average number of people in the travel group was 4 people and the average number of previous visits to South Africa was 1.68 times. Many of the respondents to this study travelled to South Africa mainly for holiday/leisure mostly to enjoy the natural attractions of South Africa since they placed high importance on appreciation of natural resources, enjoyment of beautiful scenery and sightseeing of tourist spots as important travel motivators. Most of the respondents to this study stayed on average 16.42 days which is higher than the annual average length of stay of international tourists. This information is very important from a marketing perspective as it helps in the profiling of tourists, targeting, tourism product development and positioning. Of importance as well is the fact that that the bigger the travel group the higher their spending will be. The most important aspects directly and significantly influencing length of stay were time constraints, the location of South Africa and financial constraints. It can be concluded that length of stay, availability of time to shop and respondents’ experience as a tourist directly and significantly contributes to visitor spending while interaction with the locals does not. The main travel motivations of international tourists to South Africa were Relaxation and Novelty, Social motivations, Cultural and heritage motivations, Personal Motivations and Destination motivations, of which Relaxation and Novelty and Cultural and Heritage motivations were rated high as travel motivations of tourists to South Africa. The main factors influencing length of stay of the respondents to this study were Personal experience, Access attributes, Destination attributes and Personal constraints. Of these factors, personal constraints and destination attributes ranked the highest as influencers of tourists’ length of stay. The respondents’ length of stay was least influenced by access attributes. The main factors influencing tourist spending patterns as determined by the factor analysis were: “Access and opportunity”, “Time availability” and “External influences”. Tourists’ spending was to a larger extent influenced by time availability followed by access and opportunity but least affected by external influences. The recommendations to increase length of stay and spending of inbound air tourists to South Africa made in this study are specific to South Africa as they were derived from a deep exploration of factors that influence air tourists’ length of stay and spending behaviour to South Africa. If South African Tourism, tourism industry associations and business owners implement these recommendations, this will improve both stay duration and spending of inbound air tourists to South Africa which has been fluctuating and showing slow growth. The recommendations most importantly add to literature that was lacking from a South African perspective on how length of stay and spending can be positively influenced for inbound air tourists to South Africa. The recommendations are as follows: South African Tourism, various industry associations (FEDHASA, ASATA, GHASA, RASA, SATSA), tour operators and travel agents, individual tourism and hospitality business companies that offer tourism products and services to inbound air tourists should take into consideration that length of stay is inhibited by personal constraints. It is thus important to offer value for money to the tourists. Continuous creative marketing strategies should be employed to attract long staying tourists to this country. South African Tourism, tourism business owners and industry associations should utilise new approaches and strategies that provides information about diverse range of attractions, spending opportunities and facilitate easy access as these are important to tourists who stay longer. Tourists’ personal experiences have a significant influence on tourists’ decisions to stay for longer periods hence South African Tourism and respective industry associations should offer thorough training to tourism and hospitality product/service providers and employees to enhance quality interaction with the visitors as this has a significant influence on the tourists’ decisions to stay longer in South Africa. Tourists that have been to South Africa before were influenced by personal experiences to stay for longer periods while the older and higher educated tourists were less influenced by the length of stay factors owing to their experience and confidence of what they want from a holiday in South Africa. South African Tourism, industry associations and tourism business owners should therefore target repeat visitors and the old, educated tourist market as they tend to stay for longer periods thus adding to the economic returns through their prolonged spending. Tourists that travel in larger groups are influenced by personal constraints, namely time and money; hence creating opportunities for value packages by tourism business owners in conjunction with wholesale and retail travel companies will ensure that this market stays longer in South Africa. Since destination attributes have proven to significantly influence length of stay of international tourists to South Africa, South Africa Tourism needs to create awareness on tourism opportunities that are not fully realised. This will increase tourists’ knowledge of the wide variety of activities and attractions to see in South Africa; hence they will budget long enough time to enjoy these products. Since spending patterns of tourists are influenced by time availability, if tourists stay longer, they will have enough time to shop and to experience destination products and services; hence their spending will rise. It is important to improve the environment related to Access and opportunity, Time availability and External influences as these factors influence how much tourists spend in the destination visited. The most important aspect to give attention to in order increase tourists’ spending is time availability. Opportunities should be created for tourists to spend money, which should be communicated on various platforms. South African Businesses that offer shopping opportunities (especially in shopping malls) should extend shopping hours late in the evening to allow tourists time to shop but safety and security should be geared up. Most of the tours do not always offer ample time for shopping and this should be communicated to the tour operators as it will also assist the local economy to grow.
M. Tech. (Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Faculty of Human Sciences) Vaal University of Technology.
Tourist behaviour, Visitors’ length of stay, Tourist spending, Tourist, Tourist Destination and South Africa